Tools of the Trade // Pomodoro + Focus Booster

Tools of the Trade // Pomodoro + Focus Booster // Elembee.com

Lauren introduced me to the Pomodoro Technique and Focus Booster app this spring, and it has totally changed the way I work. I really don’t know how I managed to get anything done before I started using them. Anytime someone mentions they are having trouble staying focused throughout the day, I could go on and on about these tools, so I figured it was probably time to share them on the blog so I don’t have to keep repeating myself.

If you aren’t familiar, the Pomodoro Technique is a method of working where you work in timed sessions — traditionally 25 minutes of work with a 5 minute break, but you can use timing that works best for you (for example, I know people who work in 45 minute increments with a 15 minute break). There are a number of free Pomodoro timers out there, but I love the Focus Booster app. It’s small and fits in the corner of your computer screen without getting in the way, it’s well-designed and changes color so you can see in your peripheral vision about how much time is left, you can customize the session and break times, and it counts the number of sessions.

Even though I tend to work through the break periods and often dedicate at least 2-3 hours straight to a project in the afternoon, I still like to stick to the traditional 30-minute increment timing — it helps me keep better track of the time. Without Pomodoro, I have been known to work straight through lunch and not realize it until I’m starving and find out it’s already 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I also use Pomodoro to help me get through the tasks I really don’t want to do — it’s a lot easier to make yourself do something when you know you only have to dedicate 25 minutes to it now and can come back to it later if necessary. It’s also a great way to make sure you’re making progress towards your own goals. I tend to place priority on client work over everything else, then a month later, those site updates I really needed to make still aren’t done. With Pomodoro, I have a much easier time dedicating at least one Pomodoro session to my own goals, even if I’m super busy with client work.

Another great thing about Pomodoro is it makes it easy to track your time, which means you can better estimate how long something will take you (and if you’re charging enough for your time) — and this is huge coming from someone like me, who has never been interested in or able to track my time in the past. I simply keep a notebook with the date at the top of the page and a numbered list of what I did each session — which is especially easy to keep track of with the Focus Booster app since it tells you what number session you’re on. Even if I work on the same thing for 8 sessions straight, I still write down each session — it helps me visually see what percentage of my day was spent on each task. If I do something untimed, like a phone call with a client, I just write it down in between my numbered sessions with a time estimate, so I don’t look back and wonder what I did that day. If I need to know how much time I spent on something, I can simply count the Pomodoros — but even if I never do that, just having a notebook of what I accomplished each day keeps me motivated.

Do you use the Pomodoro Technique or Focus Booster? How do you manage your time?

17 Comments

  1. Erin wrote:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m going to give this a try!

    Posted 8.1.13
  2. I love the idea of tracking how you spend your time and keeping a list in a notebook. It must feel very satisfying to write down how productive you been. And inversely, it could be just the kick I need to get moving if I’m still writing down “finding interesting links on twitter.”

    Posted 8.1.13
  3. chamaine wrote:

    thanks for sharing! i intend to try it out. really need something to help me concentrate

    Posted 8.2.13
  4. Genius! Much more accurate when charging by hour.

    hammerandheels.blogspot.com

    Posted 8.3.13
  5. Great idea and tips. Right now, I have absolutely no idea how long it takes me to, say, edit a wedding, because I’ve always been working on my photos while at my regular job, where I allowed my co-workers and my, you know, actual work to interrupt me. It’d be great to buckle down and see exactly how much I’m undercharging everyone.

    Posted 8.13.13
  6. Erika wrote:

    Oooh, I’ve heard of this technique but I haven’t implemented it. I’m off to look at the app to see if it helps with my productivity/efficiency levels! Thanks! 🙂

    Posted 8.23.13
  7. Dan wrote:

    Great technique.
    If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    Gtdagenda .com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

    Posted 8.29.13
  8. Great post!

    May I ask what your typical 5-min break session consists of?

    Do you leave the room your working in? Do you go outside? Do you eat? etc.

    Posted 2.25.14
    • Thanks! Like I said, I often work through breaks — I use the technique more to be aware of the time as I work. Sometimes I use the breaks for social media or to write a quick email. If I do need a real break, I play with my dog for a few minutes, and I take longer breaks throughout the day to take her outside. I also try to take an hour break midday for a walk and lunch, and another break later in the day for the dog park. I only run the timer when I’m actually at my desk working. Hope that helps!

      Posted 2.26.14

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